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Senior UK minister praises New Zealand TB control programme

17 April 2013

Senior UK minister praises New Zealand’s TB control programme

Britain’s most senior agriculture minister heaped praise on New Zealand and its work in controlling bovine tuberculosis (TB) during a fact finding visit at the weekend.

Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said he had “enormous admiration” for what had been achieved by the TBfree New Zealand programme, managed as a government-industry partnership by the Animal Health Board (AHB).

“You are still a society that is much more closely tied to the land and you have had this spectacular success freeing up your agricultural industry,” said Mr Paterson.

“People understand the importance of agricultural production and food production and there are all sorts of lessons to be learned from what you have done.”

More than 30,000 cattle with TB were slaughtered in England and Wales last year and the disease is on course to cost some £1 billion (NZ$1.8 billion) over the next decade.

The secretary of state recently approved badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire in order to tackle what is seen, like possums in New Zealand, as the major source of infection in farmed livestock.

He came to learn more about New Zealand’s bovine TB programme and how effective disease and wild animal control had played its part in reducing infected herd numbers from some 1700 in 1994 to around 70 today, laying the platform for the country to embark on its current path towards eradicating the disease.

During a visit to a Wairarapa farm, Mr Paterson was given some practical insights into TB testing, the science and technology involved in wild animal control and also discussed the progress of research into other disease control techniques including cattle vaccines.

“I have come away with enormous admiration for what you have done on your wildlife reservoir, the possum,” he explained, adding that he was keen to see expertise shared between the two countries.

During the visit to Tinui, the AHB’s TB Eradication and Research Manager, Dr Paul Livingstone, discussed details of the New Zealand approach and was able to share his knowledge and experience of the situation here and overseas.

Dr Livingstone has visited the UK and Ireland several times in recent years at the invitation of government experts keen to learn more about the success of the TBfree New Zealand programme.

“The UK faces a number of challenges in tackling bovine TB but we hope we were able to provide the Minister with some useful information to take back home,” said Dr Livingstone.

Mr Paterson was accompanied by Professor Ian Boyd, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

ENDS

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